Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Reading

We are so naive.  Just last week, after all that we have learned, we said I would have a laundry by today.  Such sweet kids, so full of hope.  I do have a floor!  Actually, Dan would have gotten further, maybe even finished, but I made him come out and play on Saturday, and that was the right choice.  Sunday is the Lord's day here at Winters Creek Ranch... so nothing got done on that front yesterday, either... but soon!  This week for sure.  For sure...

I read a lot during the break.  I hate most movies, and I for sure hate any movie the guys want to watch, so when Dan and the kids watched movies most nights, I went to bed early with a book.  I will only review books I liked.  Who has time for negativity?

Reading level... Us Weekly (4 hours)
I love The Mindy Project (in large part for her white and bright apartment... she has my green chandi, even!  We're twinners!) so I thought this would be fun, and it was.  She has a really developed voice, so the series of essays sound like conversations with a friend.  She brought up two points that I have felt for years, so I will tell you what they were, then read the book for a much more articulately expressed explanation of said points.

We are both children of type-A immigrant parents, so we see most Americans as whiners. Sorry, we just do.  She says she hates it when people say they are "stressed".  Her mom, who was an OBGYN in Africa, had to re-do her residency in America, which meant commuting (1...2 hours... I can't remember) while she had a young family.  Every day before she left she prepared all three meals for the day and left them in the fridge.  She never heard her mom say she was stressed.  On a personal note,  I hate it when people say they are busy.  Really?  Then eliminate something, whiner.

OK, the other thing she is really vulnerable about is her desire to be a wife and a mother.  This is such a politically incorrect and uncool thing for a young, accomplished Hollywood (or anywhere else) young woman to want, I was surprised she was so candid about it.  She talks about her married friends who drone on about how hard marriage is.   She says something like, "Shut up!  You have what we all want!"  I don't remember the exact quote because I gave my copy away... but the point is to be grateful that you found someone who you can build a life with.  As someone who has been married for 13 years, I agree.  We have had Hard Times, but this whole dialogue about "Marriage Is Work", just creates an attitude of drudgery.  I studied a bit of Eastern religion in college, and one philosophy I remember is that with arranged marriage, you are expected to love the one you marry, while in the West you are expected to marry the one you love... and Eastern marriages are much more successful.  It goes back to your attitude.  In America, we are free to have it both ways, so be careful with who you pick and make the most of it.   I like to think of Hard Times like, "You're being a jerk, so be cool so we can have fun again".  Joking!  Moving on...
Reading level, High School, 7 hours
My bookish girl friends had all recommended this book to me years ago, so if you are still reading this post you have probably already read this book, but here it goes.  Probably the best book I have ever read.  What a contrast to set down Kaling's memoir and pick up Walls'.  Their parents are a total contrast in life philosophies, and it shows how people experience the same opportunities so differently.  I had this story described to me as that of a homeless family.  Well, sort of.  The tragedy of the story is that children are the victims of the adult's choices.  The brilliance of the writing is Walls' ability to "show, don't tell".  She describes the most horrible scenes like a reporter, but this is a first person account.  She rarely even says how she felt at the time, allowing you to feel the pain, hunger, fear for her.

I read this book right before Christmas, and it put all of my expectations and those of my children into perspective.  We need so little and we have so very much.  This book really stuck with me.  As angry as I felt towards her parents, her mother in particular, I also related to some of their philosophies, which made me think, "There by the Grace of God, go I".

The most important passage of the book for me, what could be it's thesis, is at the end when she is in college and her professor is discussing poverty and homelessness in America.  In the class, Walls suggests that there are some homeless people because they choose to reject traditional values and have made it their choice (again, I am paraphrasing).  The professor slams her in front of the whole class, "People want to go cold and hungry?"  Not able to tell her story, she submits, "Of course not".  If you agree with the professor, read this book.  I have known homeless people, and the homeless people I knew had other resources which they rejected to be a part of the counter culture.  I'm just speaking of the people I know personally.  I see homeless people on the street who are disabled, often veterans, and I always give them anything I have.  Cash, food, anything, and I teach my children to show the less fortunate compassion, so that's not what I am saying.  I am saying that as hard as it is to believe, there are entire populations of people who prefer the hunger and cold to following the norms of society.  Poverty in America is sometimes choice, albeit more by default than actual planning.

I was still subdued after reading The Glass Castle when I started Unbroken, the day after Christmas.  Oh, boy.  Where do I start.
Reading level: Mature, 10 hours
Nutshell:  Brilliant.  Important.  Devastating.  Heart breaking.  I love history.  Maybe you've noticed these are all biographies.  That's 90% of what I read, and 99.9% of the time I read non-fiction.  I fancy myself an above average historian, but I was totally shocked by the brutality and suffering of the Pacific Theatre in World War II.  I have talked to people who read this book who had the exact same feeling.  In school we learned about the Nazi atrocities and the horrors in Europe, but not so much of the Pacific action between Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bombs.

Maybe it's too soon for a review, I'm surprised that I'm feeling emotional trying to summarize this, I truly can not.  I'll tell you what.  Google it if you're interested, and if you don't read, I hear Angelina Jolie is directing the movie.  Will I see the movie?  On the fence.  Probably not.  Like I said, I go to movies for entertainment and I don't think I have the stomach for it.  This book has a happy ending.  I mean, sorry to spoil it for you, but if it didn't it wouldn't be much of a story, so duh!  Of course it does.

This is a long book.  It documents years of suffering and atrocities by POW's.  I found myself thinking, "Drop that bomb already!  When does the bomb drop so we can just call this thing!"  Of course, I mean the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   I lack the vocabulary to express what I'm trying to say.  My brother is an expert on WWII, so if he reads this he will think I'm a bimbo... but here it goes.  I didn't understand the warrior spirit... war philosophy... I don't know what it's called... of the Japanese.  I knew about Kamikazes and that Japanese troops committed mass suicide rather than surrender, but I didn't understand how deep this whole honor thing went.   I started to understand that Japan would never surrender if there was any option at all.  Still, why two civilian targets? Perhaps if it was tactical targets the Japanese would have seen it as more collateral damage and continued the war, it had to be civilian targets for them to surrender.  This book was from the American perspective, so I tried to find unbiased information on the topic, which doesn't exist.  Research led me down a rabbit hole of politicized rhetoric and hind-site judgements, and I don't think we will ever have those answers.  War is a tragedy and disgusting and everyone loses.  How am I so lucky to raise my children in one of the only times and places in the history of the world where we are free?  A humbling thought, and my ultimate take away from the book.

My interest in WWII was peaked.  Dan had been taping the mini-series "The Pacific", so we watched the first one together.  It's too soon, I just can't.  I really have little tolerance for violence, and even though it was well done and compelling, I have to take a break from that whole topic for a while so I can get out of bed in the morning.  Read Unbroken, you can handle it, and I am really sensitive.  Hopefully you're of stronger stock than me.  I have talked to other friends who loved the book and are really looking forward to the movie.  I admit, I am kind of wimpy.  It's definitely one of the books that I am going to make sure my boys read... in High School.

Ok, thanks for letting me ruminate on my recent books, Dan can only take so much.

1 comment:

  1. I've read the glass castle and unbroken so now I'll try out the lighter one by mindy. I liked both books, although that's not the right word since they were emotionally hard to read. I couldn't put them down.

    good luck with the house. Let's get together when Marj gets here. I'd love to see you guys.